Friday, December 11, 2015

Tesfaye's village revisited Nov. 2015

After almost two week of non-stop meetings and activities concerning Dr. Rick Hodes' and JDC's amazing humanitarian work in Ethiopia and relating to "Bring Back Hope" related initiatives, I was feeling exhausted Thursday as I contemplated embarking on a gruelling 3 day trip to the Gojam region to visit Tesfaye's village. Yet Friday brought a new perspective -- how could I not follow through on my plan to revisit my Ethiopian family for the first time since that original Tesfaye "family reunion trip" 5 years ago, when they celebrated his post spine surgery "rebirth" as they saw him standing straight for the first time since he was 8 years old, some twelve years prior. (Click here for original post about the 2010 village family reunion experience.
Fanteye 12 years old (2010)
Fanteye and Tesfaye joyous first embrace
on seeing each other for the first time
since his extraordinary spine surgery
(Feb. 2010)
But one noteworthy difference this trip: in 2010 when I met Tesfaye's younger sister Fanteye for the first time, she was on the verge of getting married at the age of 12, as is not uncommon in the villages. However, on my trip to Ethiopia in December of 2012, I received a pleasant surprise in Addis -- an important ripple effect from Tesfaye's life transformation was Fanteye's courage to leave her marriage and the village at the age of 14 to come and live with Tesfaye in Addis and resume going to school. There is no doubt this was due to the persistence, encouragement and insistence of Tesfaye,  

Fanteye age 17, ready to
embark on the long trip
from Addis to Gojam
for my return visit to
their village
What a difference experience it was this time, returning to visit my Ethiopian family in the village with both Tesfaye and Fanteye.  Fanteye is now in Grade 11 studying sciences, looking to a bright future, instead of married with children and no education in the village. 

Fanteye with mother Yeshi catching up
You might call it a "ripple effect" from Tesfaye's life changing surgery. Fanteye's husband married a village school classmate of Fanteye's after the divorce, had a child with her and then divorced her.  There but for the grace of God goes Fanteye. Looking at her now, she looks like any typical teenage girl you would find in North America -- more importantly, she is a lovely young woman, smart and studious, with a sweet disposition and engaging smile. The entire extended family of theirs that I have met in the village are wonderfully warm and genuine people.

Another difference this village visit: five years ago they felt bad they could not cook me a sheep or chicken, as it was Ethiopian Orthodox Christian fasting season at the time. It is a very special honour of the highest nature, reserved for special guests and celebrations, to sacrifice and cook up a sheep.  Though it is certainly not something I am used to at home, I understood and appreciated the significance and honour of that gesture by Tesfaye’s older brother Semenye.

Click here to view complete Village revisited 2015 Highlights Album for additional background photo memories of my exhilarating yet exhausting village visit. The village hasn’t changed much in five years - still no electricity or running water, basic dirt/wood huts - but the noticeable change in the children certainly marked the passage of time. And I can tell you that although these people are certainly entitled to, and would no doubt enjoy, some of the modern rudimentary comforts of life that we all take for granted, they appear to live their life with a certain joy that often eludes us with our proverbial "first world" problems.

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